New Year's Resolutions - Revisited: The Book Club Of One (me)

1:43 PM AirplaneFoodCritic 0 Comments


It is funny how life is cyclical. I made so many changes in my life yet here I am with little change. I picked up my whole life and moved it to the beach. Do you think anything has changed at my HMO? No. I have been re-diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and ordered to take the Chronic Pain Clinic courses all over again...same garbage, just a different setting.

The weather is wonderful these past few days. My social anxiety keeps me from heading to the beach and reading my book like the rest of my being wants to do. The good weather brings me a bit of energy and coherence so I am hoping to use it to catch up on my good intentions of blogging that I had before my health and life went to hell in a hand basket.  I thought I would start by revisiting my resolutions. What were they? Reading more books, keeping up my plants, and trying to whiten my teeth.

Well, moving killed several of my plants so I guess I will have to try to replant them. I also tried whitening my teeth but after one application to my upper and lower rows with Crest Whitestrips I was in agonizing nerve pain in my mouth for a week. So that's out for now at least. Finally, I have little excuse not to read. That is where I will pick up then, reading and replacing/watering my plants.

Doing one of my favorite things: Reading a book on a beach.

 I am a big fan of the following authors: Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston, James Rollins, J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown. I have books by many other authors like Ted Bell, Daniel Silva and Michael Crichton. Those books I get from my brother after he reads them. I can take or leave them but apparently have have taken them all and now it is a question of whether or not I will read them. I did read a couple books recently and I am in the middle of one now. I would like to talk to you about those now.

Also, I will throw in a couple 'before' photos of my plants so I can keep a record of their progress. As it stands, I am sure it will just be photos of dirt for a bit but fingers crossed it will change as time progresses. I am not sure how well my mostly tropical plants will fare in this foggy, coastal location so my hopes are not too high. Ok...time to talk books....

It is a common question between my brother and myself: What are you reading? I have so many books on my bookshelf I can barely keep up with naming them let alone reading them. Shopping for and buying books is a great deal of fun for me. I buy many and the rest I get from my brother. So far this year I have read the following two books:

JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy and Vincent Van Gogh's The Letters Of Vincent Van Gogh. I am currently reading a compilation of short stories put together Neil Gaiman called Unnatural Creatures.

First off, The Casual Vacancy. I have to begin by saying that I just adore JK Rowling's writing style. Her descriptions are intelligent and innate. That makes for good reading all by itself but add to that her prodigious imagination and you are talking about a real reading experience that immerses you into a detailed world you feel familiar and comfortable in because you are there. I have read all seven of the Harry Potter books. I just loved all of them. I had seen a couple of the movies by the time I had read the first of the books so I went into it with a biased mind. I assumed it was 'dumbed' down for a child's mind but I could not be more wrong. The content, the words chosen and the grammar are all sharp and can entertain the most sophisticated mind. There are some authors, like Dean Koontz, for example, that make me feel it was written for a partially illiterate person. I like Koontz' stories so I read a book of his every now and again but his simple use of words, his need for redundancy and explanation really make me feel embarrassed to be reading it, how above him I feel. Not to mention how insulted I feel.

When I read the first of the Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, passion ignited in me. You know, that feeling you get when you know you have a good book in your hand....and that even better  feeling you get when you know there are SIX MORE in the series yet to be read! The content surprised me. She did not dance around the darker subjects. Spoiler Alert: That boy was abused. There are many other heavy, mature, real world topics that JK Rowling introduced in that series, to name just a few, bullying, death, murder, threats and violence. She adds wonderful imagination and creativity, wonderment and (I hate the term but....) whimsy as well. They are balanced books. There is no hint of Are You There, God? It's Me Margaret. I, in no means, am bashing that book, I read it when I was a little girl but what I mean is that the Harry Potter book series should not be used as a pre-teen handbook. But at the same time it could be. I read the series in my late 30's. The magic of JK's writing is that it spoke to me. I could relate to it. At the very same time a 12 year old boy....pretty much the opposite of me in every way... can sit there reading the same words and they are speaking to him.

Why am I going on about Harry Potter when I am supposed to be talking about JK's newest book? Well, I may have gotten carried away because I love those Potter books so much. That, and I need to put down a backstory of my feelings for JK Rowling. See, The Casual Vacancy was released dubbed as the author's first book "for adults". I know we are all supposed to try not to compare this book to the HP series but it is difficult and it would be plain wrong to not mention both books because it is  the same author after all. When I read TCV I went in knowing it was not meant to be anything like the HP series and it was for adults. This may have biased me a bit but I don't think anyone can fully detach themselves from such an epic series and from being utterly curious what JK Rowling's definition of a "book for adults" would be. My take: A book for adults just mentions horniness and boobs more. That's it. Other than that, I really have NO CLUE why she even bothers to mention one book is for one age group and another is for someone else. It ruined a bit of my reading experience as I read her awkward, forced adult themes/issues. There were more adult issues in HP if you ask me. I don't need to hear if someone gave someone else a boner to feel adult.

The main concept of the book is a third person view, actually several third person views, of a death in a small village and the reactions of each walk of life influenced by it. The book was well written which kept me reading steadily. I read the book in a month's time. It was not hard to put down but I did look forward to picking it back up before bed every night. The characters are well developed, which is saying a lot if you consider how many characters are highlighted in the book. The story is an age old one, politics, social class separation, greed, pride, jealousy, lust... This creates a sort of timeless feel. A timeless feel can be good and it can be bad though. It is old, played, predictable all of which this book is, but it can also be classic, familiar and relatable which this book is as well. Sure, every single person in this little town is a miserable, horrible person, but that is no reason to not like a book. I am a JD Salinger fan, after all. I am used to wishing I could pick the characters up out of the book with my fingers and wash them in my sink then shake them into making the right decisions before sticking them back in so I can continue reading about Holden or Seymore. It is similar with the folks in The Casual Vacancy.

In the end I would not recommend this book to my brother. I would recommend it to Harry Potter adult fans, not the young ones. I would also recommend it to anyone who is just curious because that is enough to get through the book. It does read well, it reads intelligent...if you ignore the hard-on and tit mentions...and if you are looking for something to kill some time, it will not let you down. It is a small adventure that takes you not very far from home. Were I to give ratings I would say three out of five....things.

The next book I read this year is written by Vincent Van Gogh. It is translated by someone else but the bulk of the book is completely comprised of the letters that Vincent famously wrote to his younger brother, Theo. The reading is a bit heavy, the wording is a little rough but that does not stop this book from being anything less than fascinating. I am a huge Van Gogh fan and Impressionist art fan. look at a painting. I try to put the brush in my hand and my mind into their head.
A favorite Van Gogh of mine.

When I went to the Musee D'Orsay in Paris for the first time, I broke down and cried in the Van Gogh room, and again in the Monet room. I find the work of those artists and their colleagues incredibly moving, intelligent, fascinating and pleasing....more but I just don't have the words to describe the feelings I get from spending time with those paintings. For me, the painters are to their paintings as musicians are to their music. A week ago I went to see Morrissey live. We saw him live less than a year ago. This time we were against the stage. It was the closest I have ever been to him...the man, the legend, the hero, the genius, the sexy, sexy, sexy beast...And I cried. I cried like a teenage girl seeing The Beatles for the first time. That is what I did when I "saw" Van Gogh at the D'Orsay. Sure, I have seen a few of his paintings before. I have a membership to two museums in San Francisco and I frequent them often. I frequent the Monets, the Van Goghs, the Cezannes. What made me cry this time is seeing so many in one place. I don't ever just

What could get a person closer to the artist than reading his personal diary? That is what The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh does. That is why I like this book. There is so much I learned about what this man, this beautiful, gifted, amazing artist, went through. What influenced him, how he felt about himself, his art, God, his family, women, woman, where he lived, his influences and friends. He is a descriptive writer, not that surprising, who wrote to his brother with complete honesty. He was always trying to be a better person.
An example of one of the pages. They included photos of the actual letters and some of the sketches he enclosed with his letters to Theo. I also earmarked dozens of pages to remind myself to look up the actual art he was referencing in the letters. 

Reading his book after knowing his paintings so well as I do makes me want to go right back and see all his artwork in this new light. Even if you are not familiar with most of his work, reading this book makes you want to search out and see as much as you can. What is also fascinating is reading the words from the mind of a madman. Van Gogh is famously a manic depressive who suffered from bi-polar disease. Reading about the world through his eyes is captivating as well as educational. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Van Gogh, Impressionist Art, Paintings, Museums, Struggling Artists, social and mental illnesses and old country Europe. I know I plan on visiting many of the places he lived or visited because of this book. I give it four out of five....things.

Finally, I want to mention the book I am currently reading, put together by Neil Gaiman, Unnatural Creatures is a fun compilation of short stories that range in  publication dates of 1885 to 2013.
The part I like most about this book is that there are 17 different stories so I get to read a whole new story every night before bed, in it's entirety. Some nights I am reading a few pages and other nights I am reading several. It is satisfying to begin and complete a story every evening. That way I have a little time before I fall asleep to contemplate it. Part of the proceeds of purchasing this book go to support creative thinking and writing in youths. It is the creativeness that comes inherent with a book featuring unnatural creatures to begin with. I thrive off of the imagination of other authors. That is what reading is all about for me, taking images and words given to me by the author and using my own imagination and mind to take it just that much further. The reading is pretty simple in the book. I imagine it is written for a younger audience.
Example of one of the stories.

Keeping that in mind, I give this book four out of five....things. I have 8 more stories to go though. If I continue reading a story a night, I should be finished with this book by next weekend. I then get the fun of choosing a new book altogether. Weee!

I promised a couple photos of my plants so here they are, in all their patheticness....

I just planted some more Morning Glories in this pot. You can see the miserable stick left over from the move is not doing well.

I made a ridiculous attempt to hang a tomato plant. Not enough soil for this guy to survive I am sure.

Actually, BOTH my Hibiscus plants are very happy so there are some good things out on my patio.

Another happy plant is my Nasturtium. I learned recently that it prefers to be in half shade so I moved it to this corner of my deck. It is producing nice colors. 

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